These are three good Bible words, and as such they should be used to describe Bible ideas, not human theological additions to biblical authority.
Many would make the three identical, but any Greek lexicon (dictionary) will make it clear that each of these words has a distinct and different meaning; to attempt to merge the three is confusion—and God is not the Author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33).
The term "family," as with the human family, surely refers to all who are born in a certain status. As all of the first Adam's descendants have his nature, so all of the last Adam's seed will be part of His family. As Jesus said, "Ye must be born again," John 3:7. If the first birth was physical, natural, the second must be spiritual; born of water (physical) to be lost, born of Spirit (spiritual) to be saved. Thus we have multitudes of family members whom we have never met, yet in both families the image of the original is still recognizable. We know we are descendants of Adam and not of one of the apes or other creatures because we bear the stamp of the earth, earthy. The saved know we are in the new creation, the family of God, because we bear the stamp of the heavenly. Compare I Corinthians 15:42-49.
While there is less general agreement on the scope of the word "Kingdom," it is recognized that there was a kingdom of Israel, sometimes viewed as the Old Testament Kingdom of God. Jesus used that idea as He set them aside, Matthew 21:43. In keeping with the analogy of an earthly family and a heavenly family, it seems clear that national Israel was God's earthly kingdom until the time of Christ, but since that time the Kingdom of Heaven (spiritual) is preached. As those born in national Israel were considered an earthly kingdom by circumcision (8 days after birth), is it not reasonable to consider those born into spiritual Israel as a spiritual Kingdom marked by the obedience of baptism after their new birth? While not all will accept this formulation, surely all will agree that the Kingdom is the Realm where the King reigns, and where His word is law which we are to obey.
Possibly the most controversial of the three words is "ecclesia," usually translated "church" in most versions. The original idea is "assembly" or "congregation." Many would see this word as referring to all the saved, or all the saved who have received proper baptism, or to all the saved who believe a certain body of doctrine. But why can we not use this good term to refer, as Jesus normally did in using it, to local, visible bodies of scripturally baptized believers, belonging to Him, with His Headship, and the inner motive power of the Holy Spirit to fill and control them?
Thus we are born into the Family of God (John 3:7), translated into the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13), and after baptism added to a Church of the Living God, (Acts 2:41,47; I Timothy 3:15). The three overlap, but each is a unique entity with a unique purpose.
[R. Charles Blair is a Baptist pastor. Document provided by Ben Stratton. Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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